Baron Mordiane, an old bachelor, was feeling increasingly lonely and tired of his monotonous life. He had a son from a brief love affair many years ago, whom he had never met but had financially supported throughout his life. The son, Duchoux, lived near Marseilles and had married and started a family. Mordiane decided to visit Duchoux without revealing his identity, hoping to find a welcoming refuge in his son's home.
Upon arriving at Duchoux's house, Mordiane was disappointed by the unkempt state of the place and the strong smell of garlic that seemed to permeate everything. He met Duchoux, who bore a striking resemblance to his mother, and they discussed Mordiane's interest in purchasing some land.
Duchoux proudly told Mordiane that he owed his success to his own efforts and not to anyone else.
He was also urged by a curious feeling of self-pity, at the thought of that cheerful and comfortable home on the coast where he would find his charming young daughter-in-law, his grandchildren ready to welcome him, and his son.
As Mordiane left the house, he was haunted by the memory of his past love and the fear that Duchoux would discover his true identity. He decided to flee back to Paris, unable to face the reality of his son's life.
Mordiane, shivering with fear, seized with panic, fled as one does from a great danger.
When he returned to his club, he lied to his friends about having been ill, hiding the true reason for his absence.